Chaos at the Vicarage, worthy of a standing ovation

By Dilshan Boange

Veteran dramatist Jith Peiris’s production of British playwright Philip King’s classic comedy See how they run was a theatrical treat with its uproarious hilarity which had the audience in gales of laughter. Carrying the title ‘It’s Chaos at the Vicarage’ this production on September 23, 24 and 25 at the Wendt marked the successful directorial debut of 21- year-old Trudy Herft.

One of the less positive remarks one could make about the play would be how the British accents that were projected at times switched off in more intense dramatic situations; Suranee Gomez as Ida the irrepressible maid lost her cockney accent here and there, yet her ‘sparkplug’ presence made up for it in every way. Nevertheless, the vocal delivery of Michelle Herft who played the role of Mrs. Penelope Toop was consistent and sustained. Were the accents really necessary? I believe they did add the element of ‘Britishness’ and set the scene effectively.

Kanishka Herat whom I also saw act in He Comes from Jaffna, delivered a fantastic performance as the Bishop of Lax a.k.a Penelope Toop’s ‘Uncle Dudley’. The placidity of a venerable old Bishop was convincingly portrayed while the necessary switching of gears as the ‘chaos’ began was deftly achieved by this young actor. As the puritanical and cantankerous Ms. Skillon, Carlene De Fry-Devraj delivered her role with flair, especially her antics under the influence of cooking sherry marking her fall from her seat of moral superiority which did invoke some sympathy for her predicament.

The story presented a classic case of mistaken identity and playing on the precariousness of ‘presumptions’! The play also indicated very strongly of how notions of propriety when not inherent to free spirited beings like Penelope Toop can create situations that result in innocuous deceptions that can spiral into utter chaos.

Hats off to Jith Peiris and Trudy Herft, for providing theatre lovers in Colombo with a production worthy of a standing ovation.

Too much chiffon and glamour, the bane of recent productions

A few months ago, I went for a concert that celebrated the contribution of a dance mentor, no doubt, a success, displaying ballet, free style and stylised dance routines by students. It was nice.

At a number of such performances, in addition to school productions, the overwhelming consensus would be, ‘Oh, what a lovely production that was!’ Yet having been to many such shows, I am constantly saddened and shocked at the colossal and wasteful cost of costumes that have to be borne by the parents.

What is it with Sri Lankans and polyester-velvety-nylon costumes that are stitched at exorbitant prices? Regardless of the age, must everyone be strapped into an uncomfortable, unpractical and never-to-be-used-again costume? From experience I know that a costume, for a child as young as five, will cost anywhere between Rs.2500 to Rs.3500! So if your child performs in two items, you will have to brace yourself to pocket out anything from Rs.7000 to Rs.10,000! For what? 1½ to 3 minutes of ‘fame’ onstage!

I don’t think we live in times when parents, or anyone for that matter, can afford to throw away money like this. Hasn’t it crossed anyone’s mind that costumes could be swapped, among children in the same age group, performing in different items? At least parts of a costume, such as jackets, skirts, tops? How many would mind, if it translates into cutting costs? And why is it that no one seems to have taken the initiative to establish their own costume cupboard? Perhaps storing all 50 to 100+ costumes maybe an issue, but surely, something could be retained for future use, at least for the next concert and then discarded?

With all due respect to those who genuinely set out to teach children, I feel some of these shows offer a lucrative opportunity to, literally, make a killing. There are many seamstresses who have become mini celebrities in their own right, for being able to create these wonderful costumes (with price tags which do take your breath away). And since the cost is anyway taken off parents, those who deal with the seamstresses have no compulsion to make sure that the costume prices are justified or to even try to trim costs. I have a friend who tells me that she has a cupboard full of costumes she has had to buy for her daughter, for various shows. She’s unable to give them away as no one seems to want them and also, they cost her so much that she feels bad to discard them!!

In many productions, which I am sure require at least a couple of months’ practice, it seems no one gives much thought to get decently choreographed music! So many dances would abruptly end because the music would stop midway. The audience is left guessing, as to whether they should applaud or not. Surely today, music technology has made ‘doctoring’ music; be it re-recording, tapering off or fading out tracks so easy?

Also concerts seem to accommodate more of the older students and sometimes it feels the little ones are really there, as filler material. At the end of the day, parents send children for extra-curricular activities to complement their academic careers, in the hope that they will find a discipline that they enjoy - in the process of learning. And also that it will be with them for a lifetime.

The professionals who set out to teach artistic and aesthetic skills and even schools, should really give it a hard think, before putting on extravagant shows. I shall not even venture into accounting for the time spent by parents carting children to practices, milling through traffic, burning petrol for so many extra trips, sitting outside waiting to pick up, seeing to their other children…!

The objective shouldn’t be in the glamour but in knowing that your student will show his or her prowess, regardless of a stage, regardless of satin, chiffon or cotton.

-A theatre fan

Go down a musical memory lane

‘Looking at the Legends’ tonight

Love the music of Simon & Garfunkel, Willie Nelson, James Taylor and The Beatles? Then you have something in common with the musicians who take the stage tonight. ‘Looking at the Legends’ will see three talented musicians Gananath Dasanayaka, Suran Kuruppu and Hirantha Ariyadasa,come together today, October 2 at the British School auditorium to give the audience a night to remember. The de Lanerolle Brothers will also make a special guest performance.

After being adjudicated as the Most Outstanding Solo Artiste of TNL Onstage with his jazzed up cover version of Inner Circle’s Sweat and Elvis’s ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ in 2005, Gananath Dasanayaka became quite a frequent performer at Jazz Unlimited on Sundays at the CR & FC. In 2008 he formed his own jazz quartet – JAGS Quartet in which he is the saxophonist and vocalist. Gananath does most of the favourite jazz standards on sax and vocals and some pop numbers in his own jazzy groove.

Suran Kuruppu, currently guitarist and vocalist for the folk band ‘Missing Link’ who has mastered classical guitar and won first place in Southeast Asia in classical guitar grade exams, applies the finger-style guitar playing techniques to popular songs. He was a tenor in Mary Anne David’s choir for several years.

Hirantha Ariyadasa started his music career as a violinist at the age of 12 years and after mastering the Indian Ragas at a very young age changed course and headed towards the western folk music scene. Even though generations apart Simon and Garfunke inspired him to bring forward the singer within. Six years down the line he is a co-founder and vocalist in the folk band “The Missing Link”. Hirantha is also a talented acoustic drummer. The recent discovery of the “Cajon”; a Latin American percussion instrument, has led him to revolutionize the outlook of the band ‘The Missing Link ‘in which he also now performs as a percussionist.

Tickets for tonight’s show will be available at Barefoot Gallery and Harpo’s Restaurants (Commons, Park Street Mews) and British School Auditorium.

Darshi off to Russia Fashion Week

Darshi Keertisena of Buddhi Batiks will present her creations at the prestigious Russia Fashion Week, the largest fashion week of East Europe from October 21-26. Moscow is one the biggest luxury markets in the world and it has a special place in the world of fashion. This opportunity has come her way through the HSBC Colombo Fashion Week initiative.

Darshi with Ajaiy Vir Singh, President Colombo Fashion Week

“We have come a long way and yet have a long way to go, but with the promise that we see among the Sri Lankan designers the ‘long way’ may not be that far away in terms of time. Our initiative to identify, groom and retail is showing strong results. We are very happy that Darshi will show among the best in the world. Good luck to her,” says Ajaiy Vir Singh, President HSBC Colombo Fashion Week.

Colombo Fashion Week, next scheduled for Feb 2012, is a not-for-profit initiative dedicated to the upliftment of the fashion design industry of Sri Lanka.

Excited at the opportunity, Darshi was thankful to Colombo Fashion Week for what they have done for the fashion industry of Sri Lanka. “In fact my journey started with them. I came into prominence at CFW 2007, and through that I showed in India. “It's a wonderful opportunity. I want to make full use of it,” says Darshi.

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